Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Google Me (2007, Killeen)

Rating: **1/2

Every truism has at least the potential of setting our mouths ajar to utter a mindless “wow”, before we come to our senses and rightly dismiss it as drivel. “We are all connected” is only one of the bunch, and yet Jim Killeen managed (doggedly and sometimes strenuously) to build a documentary around it. Google Me opens with a simple premise of Jim googling himself and setting out to connect with his namesakes around the world. Who are they? Are they like himself? Are they – yes – “connected” by something more than mere name…?

As it turns out (surprise, surprise), the Jims are not at all alike. There’s a priest, a swinger, a couple of others (an all-white crowd, by the way). Killeen hops around the globe asking his fellow Killeens a question about “a man’s purpose”.

With his James Gandolfini-like smirk and generally affable presence (not to mention a blatant self-dramatization resembling Brian Herzlinger’s narcissistic turn in My Date with Drew [2004]), Killeen makes for a tolerable subject, but there is an element lacking – both in him and the movie at large – that has something to do with want of responsiveness. For all the differences between various Jims, the central one reacts almost identically to every one of his namesakes – that is with an open smile and a perfunctory curiosity. He meets plenty of people; yet you hardly feel he encountered anyone by the movie’s end.

Google Me is a skin-deep odyssey in search of the meaning of life, which stops short of a becoming a true journey of self-discovery. Instead, it’s a series of mostly boring interviews, with some shamelessly touristy inserts, all stressing various cultural differences (Jim’s squirming over a Vegimite sandwich is a visual equivalent of an entry in a “Xenophobe’s Guide to Australia”).

Part of the movie’s charm – if “charm” is the right word for sufficiently inoffensive naïveté – lies in its touching formal semi-flourishes. First-time filmmaker Killeen can’t help himself but insert his own reaction shots into the interviews (some of the double takes seem painstakingly re-enacted and don’t gel with the interviewees’ expressions). However, as is the case with most silly follies, there are bits that seem almost inspired, some having to do with Killeen dramatization of his hilariously pat mid-life crisis at the very beginning of the movie.

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